Tales from the track | Rob Willis

The Mail Must go Through

Over my many decades in Forbes I have received many hundreds of letters in our respective letter boxes.  These have been delivered by a great bunch of blokes (no girls unfortunately), our Posties.

Joe Hohnberg being farewelled by the mayor of Sydney. Photo Pictorial Forbes.

Joe Hohnberg being farewelled by the mayor of Sydney. Photo Pictorial Forbes.

In the main they have been a happy smiling lot and always prepared to go that little bit extra to make sure you got your mail safely.  

Our current Postie in Oxford St, Tim Stammers, would have to be among the best in Australia and we really appreciate the extra things he does for us.

However It makes me wonder that with the advent of technology and in particular email how much longer the Postman as we know him can exist?  

How many people write letters and utilise ‘snail mail’ these days?  

Even the hand written Christmas card is declining and being substituted by a quick digital message.  

As an archivist this concerns me as the shoebox full of Grandma’s interesting letters will be no more but substituted by a stream of emails that have been lost on someone’s hard drive.

I have known  lots of Posties over the years, many of my mates started out as Telegram Boys with the PMG and later went on to deliver the mail and then moved on to other occupations.

And how they got around has certainly changed as well from walking to riding those heavy red pushbikes to later Postie motor bikes.

I still have memories of the late Vince Nichols who was not a small lad peddling the red terror around our local streets.  

It must have been hard work.

I was reminded of the Postie’s whistle as well, a short sharp tweet when your mail was delivered and in the early days they had the full PMG uniform including necktie.  

Must have been great in summer.

Then of course you have the country mail deliveries that left from the Post Office going to outlying areas.  

Hilary Dwyer is one that springs to mind on the Eugowra run.  Now who were the others?

 The Postman was also held in a degree of respect as this short note from the Advocate in 1912 suggests:

Mr Tom Gavin, the postman whose visits bring sorrow or joy to every household to which he delivers letters, was taken to the local hospital on Sunday night suffering from fever.

Think also how tough it must have been on these people particularly in World War 1 when they had to deliver ‘the letter edged in black’ that notified of a death on the battlefields.

Forbes had a legendary Postman in Mr C R Hohnberg, better known as Joe.  

Joe was another of the ‘characters’ I so like to write about.  

Bus driver, rural mailman, member of the Forbes Town Band, founding member of the Forbes Historical society and strongly civic minded Joe Hohnberg, was highly respected in Forbes.

He was also known as the ‘Walking Postman’ after making the journey on foot from Sydney to Forbes as part of the 1961 Forbes Centenary celebrations.  

Newspaper reports have him leaving Sydney in early March, arriving in Bathurst on 17th March 1961 and receiving a tumultuous welcome in Forbes on March 21st 1961.

Joe then received an invitation from newspapers in Hong Kong to participate in the Hong Kong Walkathon, which he did.

Just to keep up the Joe Hohnberg tradition I can visualise an outstanding event for our next major Forbes celebration.

Tim Stammers riding his Postie bike from Darwin to Forbes.

Only joking Tim!

Joe Hohnberg on his walk. Pictorial Forbes photo collection.

Joe Hohnberg on his walk. Pictorial Forbes photo collection.

Rob Willis is a Forbes local and historian with the National Library of Australia.

You can access the public recordings in his oral history collection online through trove.nla.gov.au

Photos in the Pictorial Forbes collection are online at http://photosau.com.au/Forbes/